High School Yearbook Photo

"More than a place, the Shady Dell was and will forever remain a state of mind." - Shady Del Knight

"More than a place, the Shady Dell was and will forever remain a state of mind." - Shady Del Knight

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The D-Team: Episode 9

In 1972, a crack Dell Rat unit was sent to prison by the Unific Court of Love for a crime they didn't commit.....
(Death by Disco).

These men promptly escaped from a maximum security stockade to the York, PA underground. Today, still wanted by the government, they survive as soldiers of soul and revivers of rock ‘n roll.

If you have a problem (with hip hop divas and gangsta rap)...

if no one else can help...

and if you can find them...

maybe you can hire...

The D-Team!

I pity the fool
who don't like these songs!

"Suspicious Minds" - Dee Dee Warwick (May 1971)

We lost two great ones in October of 2008. Lloyd Thaxton, the comedic TV dance party host, died on the 5th. Less than two weeks later, sultry soul sister Dee Dee Warwick passed away. I paid tribute to Lloyd last fall. Right now I would like to share with you one of the many fine recordings that are Dee Dee's legacy.

Dee Dee spent her career in the shadow of her famous sister Dionne. In that respect she reminds me of Erma Franklin, another great yet underrated soul singer. Erma, who waxed the Dell megahit "Piece of My Heart," was eclipsed by her superstar sister Aretha.

Dee Dee Warwick also reminds me of her white soul counterpart Evie Sands. Like the talented Evie, Dee Dee
fell victim to record companies that dropped the ball and failed to offer adequate promotion. Like Evie, Dee Dee saw
a number of her fine recordings covered and turned into bigger hits by other artists.

"Suspicious Minds" is Dee Dee's cover of the song Elvis Presley took all the way to #1 in his comeback year 1969. Recorded at southern music mecca Muscle Shoals, Alabama in October 1970 and released in the spring of 1971, "Suspicious Minds" reached its peak at #24 on the R&B Singles chart but only made it to #80 on the pop chart.
It was Dee Dee's last charting single for Atco, a subsidiary
of Atlantic Records. The lackluster chart performance of "Suspicious Minds" was par for the course. Atlantic systematically neglected Dee Dee while pouring most of its resources into established stars like Aretha Franklin and Roberta Flack.

To say Dee Dee's version of "Suspicious Minds" is better than the Elvis original would be to compare apples and oranges. Both recordings are sensational, but one is well known and the other obscure. Please listen to Dee Dee's wonderful yet seldom heard rendition.

"Action" - Freddy Cannon (September 1965)

Freddy Boom Boom Cannon's late career hit "Action" was
the theme used on Where The Action Is, the mid 1960's music/variety show produced by Dick Clark.

Action featured many of the popular recording acts of the day including a heaping helping of Paul Revere & the Raiders, the show’s house band.

Unlike Clark’s studio-bound American-Bandstand, Action filmed its musical performance segments at locations around the country. Artists lip-synched to their hits at pools, parks, recreation areas and resorts. During the summer, much of the shooting took place at SoCal’s Malibu Beach. The winter segments were filmed at the Big Bear Ski Resort. In reality, the Action TV series was as much a promotional vehicle for tourist destinations as it was for the recording artists it showcased.

A rockin’ rollin’ reveille call to good times, Freddy Cannon's “Action” went to the #13 spot on Billboard.

"Just Ain't No Love" - Barbara Acklin (December 1968)

A brilliant songwriter and extraordinary singer, Barbara Acklin had the kind of vocal styling that I could listen to all day long and never tire of it. The songs Barbara wrote and recorded at Brunswick Records in the late 60's are among the finest examples of Chitown soul. Every Barbara Acklin opus was a soul satisfying blend of big city polish and sophistication and street wise, dues paying credibility.

"Just Ain't No Love" is a lament about our troubled world;
but unlike "War" and other heavy handed protest songs that hit you in the face like a battering ram, Barbara practices restraint. Her lighter touch makes the message in the music infinitely more palatable. Released at the start of the Christmas holiday season of 1968, "Just Ain't No Love" deserved to be a hit. Instead, sales were mediocre. The record reached #23 R&B and stalled halfway up the pop chart. As Barbara's record faded away it must have burned for her to watch Young-Holt blasting off toward the top of the chart with the instrumental version of her still unreleased "Am I the Same Girl."

Let's give Barbara some sugar. Please listen now to her superb yet unheralded recording "Just Ain't No Love."

"Ben Crazy" (July 1962)/"Batman & His Grandmother"
(June 1966) - Dickie Goodman

I've always had a weakness for novelty records. I am especially fond of the so-called break-ins created by Dickie Goodman, the pioneer of modern sampling. Goodman began his string of break-in hits and misses in the late summer of 1956 with "The Flying Saucer" a War of the Worlds parody that he recorded with his partner Bill Buchanan and released on his own Luniverse record label. Eventually Goodman released singles under his own name on a variety of labels including Mark-X, Rori, Cotique and others.

In the D-Team spotlight are two of my favorites by Dickie released on two of the more collectible record labels of
the 60's. In July of 1962, Diamond collectors picked up
"Ben Crazy," a satirical sickie based on the popular doctor drama Ben Casey.

And in June of 1966, Red Bird-Blue Cat completists

added "Batman and His Grandmother" to their otherwise soulful collections.

Holy Barbara Gordon, Batgirl!

Yvonne Craig's my Pick to Click!

Don't miss the next thrill-packed episode of The D-Team, coming soon!

I love it
when a plan comes together!

Have a Shady day!

Friday, August 27, 2010

On the Record: Gentle but Bold, "Agent Double-O-Soul"

45 years ago today, this was rockin' you!

The month: August. The year: 1965. Agent 007 was a hit
at the box office. The Man (and GIRL) From U.N.C.L.E. and
I Spy were big on the boob tube. Spy mania gripped America. Records like “I Spy for the FBI,” “Secret Agent Man,” and “Agent Double-O Soul” captured the imagination of teenaged boys like me. My friends and I derived a vicarious thrill from listening to those songs and imagining ourselves immersed in the wonderful world of espionage... swingin' on the Riviera
one day and then layin' in the Bombay alley next day.
Sounds like a plan!

I suppose that’s why I found the Shady Dell so appealing.
It satisfied my craving for excitement, adventure and danger. At the Dell you could be dancing with the queen of the hop one minute and locking horns with one of the tribe's dominant males the next. However the threat of occasionally getting my nose bloodied did not act as a deterrent. As far as I was concerned the benefits of being a Dell rat far outweighed the risks.

My initiation period as a Dell rat apprentice in the fall of 1965 was tantamount to fraternity hell week. In order to earn my stripes, win respect, and fit in with the gang, I first had to endure some hazing. The only difference between hell week and Dell week was that I didn’t get to wear a pledge pin on my uniform!

“Agent Double-O Soul” by Edwin Starr emerged along with its instrumental flip side during August of '65, the same month that yielded another all-time Dell blockbuster, “Big City Lights.”

Like that killer bee by Sam the Sham, “Agent Double-O-Soul” was already positioned as a jukebox giant by the time I first made the Dell scene.

Both the vocal side and the instrumental B side remained Dell favorites through the early months of 1966.

As a result, "Agent Double-O-Soul" ranks in the top 25 on my list of the 200 Greatest Hits of the Shady Dell.

Edwin Starr’s string of excellent releases for Detroit’s Ric-Tic label continued with “Back Street,” a song that was popular in the weeks leading up to Christmas 1965. A soul classic, “Back Street” is nevertheless another example of Shady’s Law. It halted at #95 on the Billboard chart!

“Stop Her On Sight (S.O.S.)” followed in February and March of 1966.

“S.O.S.” broke into the top 50 nationally and ranks as #158 on my list of the Dell's Top 200.

“Headline News” charted in May of 1966 but was another poor performer for Edwin Starr, peaking at #84 on Billboard.

Here in the U.S., Edwin Starr failed to achieve the level of success that he deserved. It was a different story across the pond where Starr was idolized by soul fans in the UK.

Starr was arguably the biggest name on the Northern Soul circuit. In case you're not sure, let me explain what is meant by the term Northern Soul.

Northern Soul does not refer to soul music recorded in
the northern music capitals of the USA (Detroit, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia), even though most of it was. The term was invented by British music historian and author
Dave Godin to describe an underground club scene in the northern part of England north of London that caught fire at the start of the 1970's. Club patrons danced till dawn to rare American soul and R&B records spun by renaissance deejays. Fundamental to Northern Soul was the process of discovering and popularizing obscure songs by little known artists. American soul performers who never made the charts stateside were worshiped in England.

Figure B-XL: killer bees...not to be taken lightly!
Another important aspect of northern soul was the killer bee phenomenon. Seldom heard B sides of 45's became crowd favorites in those UK clubs and were played more heavily than the American endorsed A sides. It is exciting to remember that the same thing had already been happening at the Shady Dell for many years!

The Northern Soul all-nighter is regarded as the forerunner of the modern rave culture. Far from being a passing fad, the Northern Soul movement has continued to grow and is now more popular than ever. Northern soul deejays, remix artists and fans are sworn to keep the faith, a slogan Godin adopted from the American black civil rights movement.

Just as it was with Tommy Hunt and many other deserving black artists who languished while white artists and white sounding black arsits thrived, Edwin Starr had to go abroad to get his props.

Thanks to millions of Northern Soul enthusiasts around the globe, Edwin's music and his memory live on.

Have a Shady day!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Cruisin' with Johnny H. & Robert W.

It's time to check out two more albums in the Cruisin' series. As always, I selected my favorite song from each volume, added another great song or two released that same year, and nailed some vintage soda pop ads to the wall to enhance the ambiance.

Today's Cruisin' journey takes us to Cleveland and
Boss Angeles. Let's roll!

Johnny Holliday - WHK, Cleveland

"The Shoop Shoop Song (It's in His Kiss)" - Betty Everett (April 1964)

Over the years my favorite records have all shared at least one characteristic. They all had a clean, crisp, uncluttered sound that jumped right out of the grooves. The dynamic production quality to which I am referring is evident on
“The Shoop Shoop Song (It’s in His Kiss),” a delightful recording by Chicago soul songbird Betty Everett that fits neatly into the girl group category.

Released in the USA on the illustrious R&B/soul label Vee-Jay, "The Shoop Shoop Song" climbed the charts during the spring of 1964 at the height of Beatlemania. Had it been released a few months earlier, this irresistible chunk of ear candy might have risen unimpeded to the top of both the Billboard and the Cash Box chart. As it turned out "Shoop Shoop" did reach #1 on Cash Box, but it stopped at #6 on Billboard, held back by no fewer than five Beatles songs all jammed together at the top of the chart!

#1 “Twist and Shout”
#2 “Can’t Buy Me Love”

#3 “Please, Please Me”
#4 “She Loves You”
#5 “I Want to Hold Your Hand”

“The Shoop Shoop Song” was one of the best and most memorable American pop songs to emerge during the initial wave of Beatles hoopla. "Hands Off," the blues-based flip side, is a genuine killer bee!

"As Long As I Have You" - Garnet Mimms (1964)

The 1966 Shady Dell megahit "I'll Take Good Care of You" was one of the superb recordings that resulted from the collaboration of 60's soul singer Garnet Mimms and the iconic East Coast producer Jerry "Rags" Ragovoy. The blistering
"As Long as I have You" is another.

While Mimms felt most confortable singing churchy, gospel-tinged deep soul ballads, this 1964 masterpiece, punctuated by killer guitar riffs, proved that he was quite capable of recording floor filling northern dancers!

Robert W. Morgan - KHJ, Los Angeles

"Downtown" - Petula Clark (January 1965)

English thrush Petula Clark is listed in the Guiness Record Book as the most successful British female solo recording artist of all time. Pet scored a staggering 15 top 40 hits in
a row. The string started with "Downtown," a record that became a huge international hit, going to #1 in the U.S.
in the early weeks of 1965.

"I Know a Place" - Petula Clark (April 1965)

I wound up liking Pet's next top 5 hit "I Know a Place" even more because it reminded me of my favorite hangout way up yonder on Violet Hill. "I Know a Place" featured the same brassy orchestral backing as "Downtown" but the compelling go-go beat packed even more of a punch.

"You're the One" - Vogues (October 1965)

How many times must it happen before the weasels at the big record companies finally wise up? Throughout rock history the major labels have picked up edgy new performers from the indies, insisted on fixing that which wasn’t broken, and succeeded in transforming an exciting artist or group into a tired lounge act!

The Vogues are a textbook example. Far from being considered rockers, the Pittsburgh area quartet nevertheless recorded some fresh, energetic pop for Co and Ce, a small local record company. When they jumped ship, however, and signed with Reprise (home of rat packers Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis, Jr.), the Turtle Creek four went all Lawrence Welk on us, turning out a string of syrupy, heavily orchestrated covers of 50's ballads. When I heard those overproduced, violin happy Reprise recordings, I came down with a bad case of the been there, done thats!

"You're the One" is a great example of the Vogues' earlier career output with Co and Ce. The song seemingly came from nowhere in the fall of 1965 to become a top 5 national hit. Other fine records followed including "Magic Town,"
"The Land of Milk and Honey," and the group's biggest hit
"Five O’Clock World," a song that decades later became the theme of funny man Drew Carey’s network television series. Cleveland rocks, and so did Pittsburgh when the Vogues were at the top of their game!

That's how I want to remember the Vogues - not as fugitives from Sing Along with Mitch! I'm not ballad bashing here! When the Vogues sang "Magic Town" every cell in my body was galvanized. With a theme similar to that of "On Broadway" by the Drifters and Jackie Wilson's "No Pity (in the Naked City)," the slow jam had so much soul that I never doubted for a moment that the Vogues were reaching out to baby boomers like me.

"Magic Town" - Vogues (April 1966)

Later in their career, however, when the Vogues started to let the string section dominate their recordings and released moldy oldies like "My Special Angel," it seemed like they were no longer making music for my ears. The Vogues were targeting the Geritol generation. I have nothing against throwbacks. I love 50's doo-wop, but I prefer the original hits by the original artists: Skyliners and Duprees, Crests and Fireflies, Belmonts and Monarchs, Paragons and Paradons.

Gee whiz, guys. If you're going to do the retro thing, why lull us to sleep with it? Why not think outside the box and do it with pizzazz?

Don't miss the next edition of Cruisin'...coming soon!

Have a Shady day!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Dell Rat Feedback

Dell Rat Greg Gulden wrote:

"First things first, Thanks again to Mr. Knight for this great Blog. I have been waiting for the right time to post my all time favorite Dell tunes. With you talking about the most exciting records to come out of the UK it is time for me to mention one of my all time Dell favorites. I would like to submit it for honorable mention even if on my list it would be top 20 or top 10 or may be in the top 5. This song did not get a lot of play time at the Dell because it was not a great dance tune. When we talk about the records on the Dell juke box no one has explained how they got there, I like to think it is a part of that old Dell Magic. This group came in under the radar and went on to be come a super group that still sells out shows today. This is one the songs that make up the sound track of my life.

The group is the Moody Blues and the song is Go Now. Later as the time becomes right I will post more of my Dell favorites, till then I better Go Now.

Shady Del Knight wrote:

Greg, thank you so much for your kind remarks and for submitting a favorite Dell song. I also remember this one playing at the Dell and have it filed in my memory bank along with "A Whiter Shade of Pale," another fine Dell slow dance single by another innovative British band, Procol Harum.

Let's all watch, listen, and enjoy Greg Gulden's Pick to Click!

Have a Shady day!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Perfect Storms: The 10 Most Exciting Records...Ever! (Part 12)

Now let's have a look at the 5 most exciting records to come out of the United Kingdom during the rock 'n roll era.

5. “Won’t Get Fooled Again” – The Who (July 1971)

Featuring one of the greatest primal screams in rock history, "Won't Get Fooled Again" just had to be included on my list
of most exciting songs.

The 45rpm edit version is a blast, but the full length Who's Next album track is an eight-and-a-half minute thrill ride that's hard to beat! No foolin'...

4. “Whole Lotta Love” – Led Zeppelin (December 1969)

Led Zeppelin brought the 1960's to a close by crushing it to death with a heavy metal steamroller - 5-and-a-half minutes of musical madness and mayhem entitled "Whole Lotta Love."

By decade's end sweet soul music was all funked up. Reluctantly at first but later with great enthusiasm I embraced hard rock performed by Joplin, Hendrix, Cream, Steppenwolf and Iron Butterfly; yet nothing prepared me for Led Zeppelin. The sound this English band was putting down was so new to me that it seemed to have been imported, not from another country, but from another galaxy! A huge fan of soul and the blues, lead vocalist Robert Plant derived "Whole Lotta Love" from "You Need Love," a song written by blues giant Willie Dixon and recorded in 1962 by blues legend Muddy Waters. Plant, Page and company took the song to its ultimate extreme.

Came a roar and a thunder men had never heard
Like the screamin' sound of a big war bird!

3. “My Generation” – The Who (January 1966)

As a teenager I belonged to a Who tribute band. We called ourselves the What When Where Why & How?

In an ill-conceived attempt to make our stage act even more exciting than that of the originals, we routinely destroyed our musical instruments... before each performance! It didn't take long for our dreams of stardom to fuh-fuh-fuh-fade away!

2. “Helter Skelter” – Beatles (November 1968)

The Beatles pulled out all the stops in an effort to record the hardest rock song of their career. The result was the blistering "Helter Skelter," one of the best known tracks on the White Album.

Listening to "Helter Skelter" can be a harrowing experience...

especially when one remembers how the song and the album fueled Charlie Manson's fantasies of world domination.

1. “I Only Want to Be With You” - Dusty Springfield (February 1964)

How, you might ask, can a pop solo by Dusty Springfield surpass all of the hard rock anthems on my list? Remember how Michael shocked the house and wowed millions of TV viewers with his moonwalk on Motown 25? It was one of those a star is born moments.

Watching Dusty sing "I Only Want to Be With You" in front of a live audience thrills me just as much. When recording artists sing live rather than performing a lip sync they sometimes disappoint. Not so with Dusty Springfield. Her ability to sell the song, to punch it out with total confidence is what catapulted her to the top of my exciting list. To me nothing can match the excitement of a single performer summoning the courage to do what would petrify most of us - stand alone on stage and face an audience of millions with one chance to get it right - no prerecorded vocal track to use as a safety net - no band mates on stage to take up the slack in case of a stumble or forgotten lyrics. Dusty met that awesome challenge. She brought her best.

Watch, listen, and learn as Dusty Springfield delivers one of the most exciting performances of the rock 'n roll era. This was Dusty's moonwalk. This was her star is born moment!

That, ladies and gentlemen, is called nailing it!
It's pure joy! It gives me goose bumps!

That completes the semifinal competition in all four music categories: Pre-Beatles, Post-Beatles, R&B/Soul, and British Invasion. Don't miss Part 13, the last of the series, coming up this fall. Finalists from each division will go head to head to determine The 10 Most Exciting Records...Ever!

Have a Shady day!